With another year almost gone, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on what has happened throughout this period. What, if anything, has improved? What has gone backwards? What has remained static? Have the new councillors performed well? Have the old councillors ‘improved’?

There have been some positive steps, although we must admit they are tiny baby steps compared to what is required. We finally, after 18 years of talk, got a significant tree register. However, the roll out of this program is well and truly behind schedule and ultimately will take another few years to reach even the miniscule figure of 250 trees given the current rate. More disheartening is the fact that the tree register remains part of council’s Local Law, rather than being enshrined in the planning scheme itself. A recent VCAT hearing had the member make this comment which reveals how important it is that controls are included in our planning scheme. We quote:

The site contains five (5) trees that are proposed to be removed as part of the car park development. All are of exotic species and the planning scheme does not have any tree removal controls. Hence, their removal is acceptable.

(SOURCE: – https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT//2021/1549.html)

Whether or not one finds the conclusion valid, is a moot point. If council did have a planning scheme which sought protection of ALL trees meeting certain criteria, then perhaps such judgements would be far less frequent.

We have been told again and again that councillors are determined to address the municipality’s lack of public open space, sustainability, increase our canopy cover, and take real action on climate change. All well and good and to be applauded. However, when such aspirations are not backed up by sufficient funding, then we have to query whether anything will really improve over the next few years. The Open Space Strategy states that at least 150 hectares of additional open space is required to meet the community’s needs. The long term financial plan allocates roughly $7M per annum for each of the next four years. This is just enough to purchase roughly 1500 – 1800 square metres of property per annum. Even with the current proposal for an 8.3%  open space levy (when other councils are looking at 10%) this will still not be sufficient to come even close to the ‘required’ 150 hectares.

The above comments can also be applied to council’s action plan on increasing the canopy cover, and acting on reducing carbon emissions. Unless such policies are backed up by sufficient funding, then we can only anticipate a further loss of important canopy trees, and little improvement in climate management strategies. This of course goes to the heart of priority setting by this administration and its elected representatives. When council is committed to massive spending on infrastructure projects such as the Carnegie Pool, to the tune of now $52M (up from the budget forecast of $51M), and when no business case has been made public, we have to doubt the efficacy of such decisions – especially when countless comments from residents wanted the ambience and the foot print of the current pool retained. Very few desired another (mini) GESAC. 

Planning in Glen Eira remains as it has for decades – pro development, and lacking in enforceable strategies and policies. It is quite unbelievable that after the mandated Planning Scheme Review of 2016 we still do not have:

  • Permanent structure plans for Bentleigh, Elsternwick, and Carnegie
  • After being promised structure plans for our neighbourhood centres, we only have ‘guidelines’ (ie Built Form Frameworks) for three neighbourhood centres which are not as yet even in the planning scheme. No indication has been given as to what to expect for the remaining centres.
  • No developer contributions on parking as promised in 2016
  • No Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) policy
  • No review of the residential zones and their respective schedules since 2013
  • And the most damning fact – no housing strategy since 2002 and council steam rolling ahead with amendment after amendment all PRIOR to the completion of an essential housing strategy.

Politics has continued to play an important role in many councillors’ decision making as evidenced by the car park issue and the acceptance (or not) of the $18M funding from the Federal Government. Politics is also evident in the alacrity with which some Labor aligned councillors so heartily support draft structure plans and applications that include heights so out of keeping with resident wishes.

Council signed an ‘agreement’ with several other councils this year to demand greater community and council input into the State Government’s planning agenda. Thus far, we have heard nothing back.  Have discussions been ongoing between councils and the department? If so, why not some updates?

We must also comment on the volume of useless community consultations. We maintain that they are indeed ‘useless’ when the questions on surveys are simply designed to elicit certain responses, and when councillors and the community consultation committee has no input into the final product. Residents are often faced with planning jargon that most will not be familiar with, or with hundreds upon hundreds of pages to plough through in order to come up with some decent submissions. The absence of Discussion Papers that are truly objective and informative is a major failing of this council. Surely a brief document that accurately summarises the issues would not go astray.

Several councillors have bemoaned the fact that the response rate on various issues is poor. Perhaps council needs to start asking why this might be the case. Is it simply because residents are apathetic? Or perhaps it might have more to do with the fact that so many people believe that their views will not be acted upon? Or maybe, the manner in which consultations are carried out, and the ‘useless’ questions are seen as a complete waste of time by residents?  Then again, people are simply tired no doubt, and flooding them with mock consultation after mock consultation is simply demoralising and counter productive. Perhaps more people would respond if more information was included that meant something. For example: pretty pictures of draft designs is not enough. Why not include some basics like -size, cost, footprint? Surely this would elicit some very relevant and greater feedback. The greatest fallacy however would be for this council to assume that because the response rates might not be up to par, that means that the majority of residents are in FAVOUR of the various projects. In our view, nothing could be further from the truth. Disquiet is growing and until this council addresses the fundamental issues of housing, open space, and sustainability, we will continue to head backwards. It is the role of councillors to ensure that this trend is reversed.

Our best wishes to all for a much healthier and far more fulfilling 2022.